Head congestion is usually caused by a viral illness, but it may also result from a sinus infection, allergies, or other illnesses. Contrary to what most people believe, head congestion is not caused by an overproduction of mucus. Congestion occurs when the sinuses and lining of the nasal passages become swollen due to inflamed blood vessels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Head congestion can be very uncomfortable, but there are numerous things you can do at home to clear it.
Use a decongestant medication to reduce inflammation in your mucus membranes and relieve head congestion. The University of Maryland Medical Center warns that using nasal sprays for longer than three days may make congestion worse.
Try an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce mucus production and dry out your head. Antihistamines may make you drowsy, so use caution when driving.
Run a humidifier inside your home, especially during the night, to help ease head congestion and allow for easier breathing. Clean your humidifier daily to prevent bacteria and mold from growing inside your unit. These can make head congestion worse.
Try saline nose drops to flush mucus from your nose and help heal sore sinus and nasal passages. Saline solution can be purchased at most stores, or you can make your own by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Add in a pinch of baking soda to prevent burning the inside of your nose.
Drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration and thin your head congestion. Increasing your intake of fluids is especially important if you have a fever or are at risk of dehydration for other reasons.
Prop your head up on pillows when attempting to sleep. Lying down can worsen congestion and increase sinus pressure and pain.
Take any allergy medications prescribed by your doctor. Head congestion is a common symptom of allergies, and may be relieved by taking prescription medications.
Avoid irritants and known triggers, such as allergens, smoke, and strong perfumes. All of these can irritate the nose and sinuses and increase congestion. Do not smoke inside your home, and do not allow anyone else to do so either.
Stand in your bathroom with the door closed and the shower running for 15 minutes, several times each day. The steam from the shower will help clear your head congestion. You can also boil a pot of water, lean over the pot, and place a towel over your head to inhale the steam.
Place over-the-counter adhesive strips on your nose to reduce nasal and sinus congestion. According to the National Institutes of Health, these products help widen the nose and may make breathing easier.